This month we will be sharing a collection of short readings by Northeastern Seminary alumni as they reflect on and rejoice in the gifts of God's grace and the signs of Christ present during this Advent Season. Today's guest post was written by Edward Jenkins.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content, whatever the consequences (Phil 4:11, N.I.V)
This summer, I led 16 people on a week-long missionary trip to Haiti arriving Saturday, August 24 in Port Au Prince, en route to our destination in Jacmel, about three hours away. We went to help feed 475 children, and lay the foundation for a house, as well as to teach at a leader’s seminar. It was like a culture shock as we drove through the city of Port Au Prince. I am sure each of us was wondering as I was, “What did I get myself into?” as we saw evidence of deep poverty all around.
We arrived in Jacmel before nightfall, checked into our hotel which was quite nice, then went for dinner about 2 miles away at “Restoration House,” where quite a number of children, as well as teenagers, lived together along with adults who were supervisors/counselors. The Church was a couple buildings away on a dusty path and served as the place where the children were fed each day.
On Sunday August 25, I preached at both services in English while someone translated in Creole. It was a beautiful experience and the sanctuary was packed to capacity with mostly teenagers. These young people really worshipped! The praise and worship session alone was for one hour and a half! Although the songs were in Creole, the earnestness in their faces was evident and real. They stood for the entire duration! I preached afterward and indicated how moved we were by their ability to look beyond the circumstances around them and focus on God.
The attitude of the Haitians was commendable and made me wonder how in the United States there is so much at our disposal and yet there is so much waste. The people of Haiti on the other hand, including the children, were truly thankful for the little they have. No one seemed to be allowing their circumstances to overwhelm them. Some of these children walked well over 5 miles one way each day just to eat and for most of the days it was simply rice with some gravy on it. Only one of those days (Thursday) would they get some chicken along with their meal. For some of them, it was the only meal that they had for the day, yet the children were smiling, orderly, playful, and mannerly. All of us were deeply impacted by this experience in Haiti. We left with a renewed sense of appreciation for what we have, and a determination not to be worried about that which we didn’t have.
Especially around this time of Advent, Paul’s statement to the Philippians noted above, becomes both crucial and applicable. May God keep us all content, thankful and humble, not only at thanksgiving and Advent, but throughout every day of our lives.
Rev. Edward L Jenkins, M.Div. ‘12, is pastor at Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.